I venture to guess that most people would say, of course, employee manuals provide for all sorts of hearings and progressive discipline and the employer is bound to such “promises”, aren’t they?
The short answer is “no.” Generally speaking, “fairness” has nothing to do with one’s employment. Why? California is an “at-will” state, which is just jargon for saying that, in the vast majority of instances, you can quit anytime you like; and, more importantly, your private, as opposed to government, employer can fire you for, a good reason, no reason, or even what you might perceive as an insane reason, as long as it is not an illegal reason.
Okay, you say, what is an illegal reason? Now you have asked the Golden Question. The answer is not that simple, which is what you would expect a lawyer to say, and which is exactly what I am saying. There are many illegal reasons, some of which include, but are not limited to, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, nationality discrimination, refusing to break the law, time off for jury duty, etc. and on and on.
You then ask: so how do I know if I got fired for an illegal reason? Some suggestions:
- Get the employer to confess. Good luck with that, it’s probably not going to happen.
- Visit a psychic or seer or spiritual medium.
- Hire an employment rights lawyer to piece together all the evidence (usually “indirect” or “circumstantial” evidence) and try to link it to an illegal motive, if, indeed, one exists or existed.
If you chose “hire an employee rights lawyer”, you got it right. You then ask: what is this lawyer going to do for me? Well, she or he will gather the facts, review the law and see if your facts can logically be linked to an illegal reason. Some examples:
- You reported your employer to OSHA or the Labor Commissioner and within a short time you were fired.
- Promotions and pay increases are being handed out, but some groups are excluded. The trick is to put together enough evidence for a judge or jury to conclude that you were intentionally fired, in whole or in part, for an illegal reason.
- You went on jury duty and when you returned, you job wasn’t waiting for you.
- You were sexually harassed and when you did not respond or when you said that you were going to the authorities, you were let go.